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May 20, 2022

Funny Papers Again Column | Travels With Buddy — Part II

If I thought that it happened to be just the occasion and just the right type of youthful Big Sur denizens (that’s where the bulk of them were from) that made Buddy such a hit, I was dispelled of that thought when we moved from the Indians to the Upper Campground above Abbott Lakes in Arroyo Seco.

Before getting to Buddy’s camaraderie with campers yet to come, I must relate his utter dislike of animals in general. If not disdain, then surely a case of the ancient gene, which dictates to canines of any size (Buddy weighed 65 pounds) to chase down and have at other animals, including not just forest animals and critters but also fish, birds, snakes; just about anything that runs, flies, swims or poops is fair game.

Even in the urban setting in which he was raised, Buddy had killed five times, maybe six; I could never find the last victim, so I’m still not sure it died, but all indications showed it left Buddy’s domain in mighty poor condition; mighty poor indeed. I should say here that four of the deceased were possums done in over a five- or six-year period; why the ignorant little buggers continued to attempt a midnight scurry across a yard that surely smelled of dog everywhere is beyond me, but they paid for the folly with their lives.

Twice cats living in the neighborhood ventured, again, foolishly, into the backyard and sadly one did not survive (the local humane society put it down) and the other was in Buddy’s jaws for at least a minute before I could call him off, but the owners later told me the vet could find no punctures. He was toying with it, which seems to me far worse that a quick end; pets can be very primal at times… but I digress.

The first day we pulled into Arroyo Seco’s upper campground, primitive I believe is the designation, located above Abbott Lakes, Buddy came alive at the sight he beheld just at the top of the small hill leading to the campground: a buck and two does were grazing the area. Barely able to contain himself until I chose a site and got situated, he was all abound when he finally got his paws on the ground.

In the meantime, the does had made their way up to another camping area while the buck lingered behind, his eyes glued on the intruders. Buddy took off as fast as his aged legs could carry him, which was still a pretty good clip, with about 40 yards to go to reach his prey. When the buck ran a few yards, bounded twice and then leapt over the closed gate separating the two campsites and was gone from sight in a few seconds, Buddy actually stopped his run so quickly he almost looked cartoonish. He turned around, came back to the camper, and never looked at me: the agony of defeat.

In a few minutes, a squirrel made a run from hole to hole and Buddy spent the rest of the day patiently waiting for the furry little critter to make another sprint; despair had turned to dogged determination; pun not intended.

In a repeat of his performance, Buddy was once again the common thread that wove us together. By “us” I mean the campers that came in on Friday after Buddy and I had had the place to ourselves for four days. In the empty site, Buddy found three or four places that for him were ideal patches of earth to stretch out on and sleep, which he could do for many hours. Each place was used according to the time of day, where the sun was shining and where it was not.

I will mention here that Arroyo Seco on those days set a record 108 degrees; the temps hovered around 102 to 105 for about 10 days that year, and I would have to go around the campgrounds to find where Buddy was holed up. I would usually call his name and some camper (after two days everybody knew Buddy) would holler that he was in their campsite sleeping without a care in the world. I would go over to apologize for the interruption to which most everybody responded with remarks about how good a dog he was; it was neat to know Buddy considered every site his domain and every camper his friend.

This would usually lead to the offer of a sit-down and a beer (surprising how many campers drink beer; well, maybe not) and soon I heard stories from people about where they were from, where they had been and where they were going. I mentioned the Steinbeck book to some of our new acquaintances and as I repeated the narrative, I realized Buddy and I had at least shown one aspect of the story to be valid, that of the diplomacy of dogs; I felt good about that little connection to one of America’s foremost authors. And the free beers were nice, too.

My travels with Buddy didn’t end there; we eventually made our way to Purcell, Okla., for a few months before we returned to the Valley in July of 2013. Buddy and I had one more year together, and not always an easy year. We were in Greenfield, somewhat settled with decades-old friends, when I got the opportunity to do a show in King City, a member of the cast had a room to rent so Buddy and I settled on Seventh Street. It was our last stop together.

Buddy died on July 5, 2014, while taking one last ride in the pickup on Metz Road. He is buried just outside Greenfield on property I have known for 60-plus years, he lies there with other beloved pets, and that is just fine with me.

Take care. Peace.

Steve Wilson
King City and Greenfield Columnist

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